Julek's Letters: Gypsy Camp Memories

Uncle Julius "Julek" Zylberger was a Holocaust survivor, and he wrote several letters about his experience.

Gypsy Camp Memories

Gypsy camp! Tzigane Lager!

There I was selected to be together with other children. We were sent to a kind of farm camp. Hunger was not as great as in the Lodz Ghetto. I believe that I fitted in well with the other children. I made friends with Victor. We have been friends ever since. I was beaten up very severely when I tried to steal a potato. I remember this beating very well.

In January 1945, when the Russians came towards us, the Germans evacuated us in open cattle cars. There was snow in the cars. It was very cold. Some people died. I survived. I don't know how or why?

I was sent to Buchenwald. I remember standing on appeal (attention) in the cold weather half the night. The reason was that somebody tried to escape.

From Buchenwald I went to a camp called Brabah near Zeitz. The town where they make lenses. The camp was a death camp. When we arrived they took out half-dead people from the wagons whom they killed. It was frightening. Hunger was great and lice were eating out our bodies. Allied planes bombed the water supply and we had no water to wash ourself with. My hands became like an alligator's skin. I worked in a large chemical compound where they made aviation fuel from brown coal. The Allies were bombing it constantly and we were in the midst of it. We were happy to see the planes hit the factory.

In April 1945 we were again put on railroad wagons and started on a journey of unknown destination. Food was very scarce. After two or three days journey our train was bombed. The SS were trying to round us up but three of us, Victor Breitburg, Adek Wasercier and myself escaped. We walked and at times hid in the forest. Finally, we saw a cottage or two in the distance. I, on account that I had sort of civilian clothing, went to see if I could get some food. As I went to the cottage, someone, a prisoner of war, came to the cottage door. I asked him if he could find some food for me. He said that he would try and went back into the cottage.

When he came out he said that everything was already lost. A Nazi put a pistol to my head and told me to raise my hands. He had already caught my two friends Victor Breitburg and Adek Wasercier.

The penalty for escape was, of course, death. But a miracle happened. Two older Germans took us back to our group. They were walking separately, apart from us. I asked the one nearest to me for food. I told him that their end was already sure. I was fearless. He took out a cheese sandwich and gave it to me. I shared it with Victor and Adek. It was the best food we ever ate.

Then it became Victor's turn to save our life. Normally they would have shot us. But when we came close to our group, Victor recognized a guard from our camp. He was loaded down with packages and he let us carry them for him. This saved us our lives. Two days later we arrived at Terezienstat, a so-called model Ghetto. About a week later we were liberated. It was the Russian army. I was happy but could not really rejoice. I was drained of emotion.

I teamed up with a group that was supposed to go to England. In the meantime, I became ill with typhus. I was taken to a Russian-run, make- shift hospital. After a period of unconsciousness, I recovered. I did not look for my parents. I felt sure that they were dead.

Soon after that our group flew to England. My new life had started.


Julek's Letters: Ghetto - Camp - Dream
Heller Web Space: Images - Notes - Travel - Memories